The University of West Georgia recently sponsored an archaeological survey in a comprehensive mapping project to gather information and gain a cultural understanding of the Thomas Bonner Plantation property that is now the UWG campus.

Several scenarios intersected to prompt exploration: preparation of a facilities fiber installation project on campus activating discussion of potential disturbance to the area; a community member coming forth in a community forum to suggest the ground near Melson Hall could potentially be the location of a cemetery; and the recent launch of the UWG History Project as an avenue for proper data collection and preservation of the institution and region’s rich history, should historical resources be located.

Under consultation with the Georgia Office of the State Archaeologist, UWG sponsored an archaeological survey to be conducted by Southern Research, Historical Preservation Consultants Inc. as the first step in an ongoing project of discovery. After several rounds of ground and soil strata testing, ground-penetrating radar, and archaeological exploration, Southern Research HPC identified anomalies in the soil suggesting the presence of possible graves. This immediately prompted us to notify descendant family members of the enslaved persons of the Thomas Bonner Plantation.

UWG, in consultation with the University System of Georgia and the Georgia Office of the State Archaeologist, will continue to explore and verify findings. As we unite with the descendant family members of the enslaved persons of the Thomas Bonner Plantation to learn more about the rich history of this campus area, we also invite community members to assist with sharing their historical accounts to collectively bring honor and reverent remembrance to this endeavor. Our Center for Public History is working with the Center for Diversity and Inclusion and other campus officials to actively collect information.

The project's full title is “Along the Ridge: Reflections on a 19th Century Cemetery on the University of West Georgia Campus.” The phrase “Along the Ridge” was taken from an excerpt written by Abe Bonner, an enslaved laborer on Thomas Bonner Plantation, in his “Reminiscences.” Bonner wrote that slave quarters were strung “along the ridge” on the property that eventually became the University of West Georgia.

View a timeline of the efforts made by the university to bring honor and reverent remembrance to this endeavor while keeping campus partners and the community informed.

A list of project partners is available to view.

glossary of terms is also available for your reference.

If you have any questions regarding this project, they may be answered in our FAQ.

Want to be involved in the project? Submit your information via the Connect with Us form.